‘Peace’ Protest Falls Flat


For a group with such a noble-sounding name, Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) did little to move toward its goal with its protest in Clayton last week.

Members of the group went to the local headquarters of the Anti-Defamation League to deliver a petition they said had 20,000 signatures demanding the end to a program in which  Israel trains American law enforcement officers. Clayton police blocked the entrance to the building and said the ADL offices had been closed for the day.

JVP said similar protests were held in more than a dozen U.S. cities. All were misguided examples of questionable indignation.

Jewish Voice for Peace has a history of outrageous behavior that makes spurious claims. Its leaders have tried to link police brutality in the United States to the training program in Israel. To make their point, members have disrupted meetings of other Jewish organizations, claiming loudly that the mainstream groups do not speak for them.

Far from supporting Israel and joining efforts to devise a plan that would lead to a lasting peace, JVP has allied itself with groups that work to undermine the Jewish State.

The Clayton demonstration is a good example of JVP’s outlook and tactics.

Its misplaced focus was the exchange program in which  American police departments send officers to Israel to learn techniques to combat terrorism. JVP has labeled the program a “deadly exchange,” claiming that it trains police officers to use unreasonable and unnecessary force.

In that context, JVP has aligned itself with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States and has used the deaths of Mike Brown in Ferguson and others to bring home its point. More recently, the movement has been involved in local protests over the verdict in the Stockley case.

The analogy between Black Lives Matters and JVP’s goals doesn’t come close to working. Israel can certainly help instruct law enforcement officers from around the world in better ways to combat those who want to disrupt and destroy society. Similarly, it’s hard to ignore evidence that black men in the United States are too often targeted and killed by white police officers, with little if any recourse in the courts.

But efforts to link those two truths, by saying that Israeli police training leads to racism on the part of American law enforcement, break down quickly. They are a transparent effort to discredit Israel and generate support for the unfortunate and divisive BDS strategy, which encourages boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Leaders of JVP clearly recognize where they stand in the continuum of Jewish organizations. In a statement two years ago, they said:

“While many may see us as inflexible and dogmatic, we are actually a group of Jewish Americans and Israelis with diverse perspectives, which we see as a strength that helps us grow, learn and struggle together authentically. We wish to offer such a space to others in the Jewish community grappling with what is happening in Israel/Palestine.”

But with its prolonged protests, its tactics and the issues it chooses to highlight in its struggle to make its platform heard, JVP has hardly helped its cause. A group of local Jewish activists, writing to the Jewish Light two years ago in defense of Rabbi Susan Talve from harsh criticism by the JVP, put it this way:

“We share with you a commitment to seek peace and fight racism and institutional oppression. We yield to no one in our opposition to oppression whether it be in Ferguson or Israel. We are advocates against genocide, apartheid and racism. We will speak out against violence and the murder of innocents wherever it happens.

“Your organization of course has the right to take whatever positions and choose whatever allies you wish. But it is our belief that if you want to strengthen a progressive movement and build a coalition — by definition, a tent under which not everyone will agree on every issue — it is not constructive to call another progressive fighter for justice a ‘terrorist’ who ‘supports genocide.’ ”   

Karen Aroesty, who heads the regional ADL office here, rightly acknowledges difficulties in Israeli society. 

“They have issues like we do,” she told the Jewish Light, “as does every country in the world when it comes to race and otherness, but just to use that hook alone to take a side is not to understand the nature of the conflict itself. And to demonize Israel does zero for helping really address equity in racism in the United States.”

Those words, not the chants and disruptions of Jewish Voice for Peace, are the ones that need to be heard and heeded by those who strive to find a workable, reasonable, equitable solution in the elusive search for peace in Israel.

Attempts to link Israeli training for American police officers to the Black Lives Matter movement is too much of a stretch. And inevitably, when you try to stretch too far, you end up falling flat on your face.